THE BLOG
12/05/2006 12:52 pm ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

UHS Locks Out SEIU Nurses

by Taylor Marsh

This one isn't about money.

It's about patient care.

It's about unions protecting nurses so they can give quality care. That's not only their job, but their life mission.

I joined my first union when I was still in my teens. It was a performance union that mattered a great deal to me. From wages to rehearsal hours, to the floor surfaces on which we performed and danced upon, the union regulated everything. I went from AFTRA to joining Actors Equity, to AGVA and then to SAG. I've been on honorary withdrawal for ages, but I remember how much they mattered to me and everyone else. But the unions I belonged to didn't have actual life and death consequences to any community, except performers. We didn't hold people's lives in our hands. So when I saw this story late Sunday night, to say it got my attention is an understatement.

I want you to meet Chris Moore. Universal Health Services has locked out SEIU nurses at Desert Spring and Valley Hospitals in Las Vegas. He is one of those nurses. I began reporting on this story yesterday and chatted with Chris on my radio show. He's been all over the news. He's a popular guy. No wonder. His passion is his patients. He simply loves nursing. It is his life. But not just his life, because his wife is an ER nurse.

SEIU Vegas Nurses Locked Out: Interview-Chris Moore - Part I
Chris's part starts about half-way through the above link.

SEIU Vegas Nurses Locked Out: Interview-Chris Moore - Part II

All the SEIU nurses at Universal Health Services in Las Vegas want is to be able to care for their patients the best way they can.

Yesterday, local Las Vegas news estimated that over 1000 Valley Hospital employees gathered before it all began. Universal met the normal shift change with a lock out and temporary nurses gathered from across the country to take their places.

Karen Kinimaka, Valley Hospital ICU nurse, said, "We're trying to get better staffing ratios. That's what we're here for. We're trying to take care of our patients." - Nurses Off The Job at Two Las Vegas Hospitals

Late yesterday afternoon, SEIU filed charges with the National Labor Relations Board on behalf of their nurses at Desert Spring and Valley Hospitals.

A labor dispute between the Service Employees International Union and the Valley Health System appeared headed toward a worker lockout and picketing this morning at Valley Hospital Medical Center and Desert Springs Hospital Medical Center in Las Vegas.

A labor contract for 800 local union nurses expired in May, and the two sides have held contentious talks since the spring.

The nurses voted Nov. 18 to strike starting today. But a call was made Sunday by several Nevada elected officials for a 30-day "cooling-off" period to avert the strike and allow for fresh talks between the two parties.

(snip)

The company released a statement late Sunday indicating that the union had not withdrawn its notice of intent to strike, which is necessary to cancel a walkout. The "mixed developments" compelled Valley Health to proceed with its strike contingency plans, for which the company brought in several hundred replacement nurses and technicians for a minimum of five days.

Not all 800 of the union nurses had planned to participate in the strike. Nurses who had notified Valley Health of their intent to strike will be locked out until Saturday, the company's statement said. ...

Buckley said she, Gibbons and Reid would reach out today to Valley Health's parent company, Universal Health Services, based in Pennsylvania, and ask Universal Health's owners to fly to Las Vegas on Tuesday for talks. She said Gibbons would fly from Washington, D.C., to Las Vegas for the meeting. ..

LABOR CONTRACT: Lockout of nurses nears

According to the RJ, Universal Health Services owns 23 hospitals, 103 behavioral health centers and seven outpatient-surgery centers across the United States.

Healthcare in Nevada has been at a crisis for many years, but this latest event reaches the danger zone. What the SEIU nurses are asking for is what every other hospital in Las Vegas has already contracted with nurses to guarantee: staffing improvements, so SEIU nurses at UHS can better care for their patients; a ban to mandatory overtime; as well as "floating policies" that don't leave a nurse in an area of care that is beyond their expertise.

Again, this is NOT about money.

Nurses are striking because of staffing. One nurse sometimes takes care of as many as 10 patients. Administrators say the staffing is just fine. They are not and the more I learn about the situation the more outraged UHS's behavior becomes to me. Valley Hospital Medical Center and Desert Springs Hospital Medical Center in Las Vegas, both UHS hospitals, are at the very bottom when it comes to patient to nurse ratio, when compared to other hospitals in the country.

Overworking nurses so a corporation can make profits is not a way to run a health care facility. More talks are scheduled today at 1 p.m.

This is important, not only to Las Vegas, but to the entire country. Because if this type of dangerous corporate lock-out can happen in one city, it could next be coming to a hospital near you. Imagine what this means to national health care going forward.

Support SEIU Nurses Locked Out by UHS. I'll be reporting on this story until it's over. Stay tuned. Oh, and please spread the word.

- Taylor Marsh LIVE! can be heard from 6-7 pm eastern - 3-4 p.m pacific, Mon.-Thurs, with podcasts available.